Latest Breaking News from Punjab: Thursday 28th June 2007
Punjab government grants permission to arrest Dera chief
The Punjab government late Wednesday gave permission to the state police to execute the non-bailable warrant issued against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh on the charge of hurting religious sentiments of the Sikh community.A Bathinda court had last week issued the warrant against the sect head following a controversy last month over his portrayal in the manner of 10th Sikh guru Gobind Singh. The court has also asked police to take the state government's permission before executing the warrant.Confirming that the home department had given police a go-ahead, Punjab Advocate General H.S. Mattewal said: "Whatever the government had to do in this case has been done now."The Punjab Police has time till July 1 to take the Dera chief into custody. But the Dera headquarters is situated at Sirsa in Haryana. So they will first need to approach the Haryana police. A team of the Punjab police will go to the sect's headquarters, about 300 km from here, to arrest the godman. If the arrest doesn’t happen before July 1, Punjab police will have to approach the court for a fresh warrant.
Khalsa March sends ‘apology’ for a six; next Sikh conclave on July 11 in Haryana
After marathon meeting, Jathedars find it was only a press note, not apology
AMRITSAR: Three days after the Sikh sangat made its sentiments clear with a vociferousKhalsa March, the Sikh high priests led by Akal Takht jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti virtuallydismissed the so-called new apology, said it is merely a press note and does not even explainwhy Dera Sauda’s Gurmeet Ram Rahim imitated the tenth Sikh Master, nor promised that it willnot be repeated. When asked whether it amounted to rejection of the apology, Vedanti said, “Thisis no apology, it is merely a press note.” The ‘apology’ was mediated by Delhi Sikh GurdwaraManagement Committee president Paramjit Singh Sarna.Jathedar Vedanti also called for a ‘Sabha’, a sort of Sikh sammelan, on July 11 at Ratia in Haryana. He said the clergy will be consulting several panthic bodies in India and abroad before formulating its final view about the next step in tackling deravaad and Sirsa issue.Earlier this morning, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar delivered the sealed envelope, contentsof which were worst-kept secret, to the high priests. The high priests remained closetted forhours before Vedanti came out with the decision. Soon after the high priests met on Wednesday morning (India time), they refused to meet a delegationof Khalsa Action Committee led by Bhai Daljit Singh, following which the KAC distributed a two-page note to the media. Later, as the high priests seemed to have reviewed their decision and agreed to meet the KAC panel, the latter had already left the venue.Jathedar Vedanti had cut short his Canada tour, reaching here late Tuesday night, to participate in the meeting. Representatives of Akali Dal (Amritsar), Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle and other panthic bodies also met the clergy. In its two-page memo, the KAC said as per the Gurmata of May 17 issued at Sri Damdama Sahib, the Sirsa dera and its chief has joined the ranks of Minas, Dhirmalias, Ramrayiyas and nakli Nirankaris and an apology is worth considering only when it comes from a feeling of true repentance. It reiterated its conditions for accepting the apology as shunning the name ‘Sacha Sauda’, stopping misuse of bani and bana, misuse of Sikh lexicon, slogans, imitation of panj pyaras, and the jaam-e-insa drama.Among the clerics closetted were, apart from Vedanti, Giani Iqbal Singh of Patna Sahib, Jathedar Tarlochan Singh of Takht Kesgarh Sahib, Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh of Takht Damdama Sahib and Bhai Jiwanjot Singh, representative of Jathedar of Sri Huzur Sahib, Nanded.ENROUTE DINA KANGAR TO TAKHT DAMDAMA SAHIB: Notwithstanding the appeals made by Sikh clerics and ignoring the fact that the Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee president Paramjit Singh Sarna was more involved in ‘managing’ an apology from the Dera Sauda than preparing to lead the Khalsa March he had himself helped plan, the overwhelming response to the march received from the Sikh sangat on Sunday left no one in doubt that the panth continues to be enraged by the antics of the Dera Sauda irrespective of semantic word play of apologies. The way Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh was hackled was enough indication of the sentiments of the Sikh sangat.As enthusiastic youth participation surprised even the organizers of the march from Gurdwara Dina Kangar to Takht Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo, and crowds of thousands comprised the kilometres long march, indications were clear that Akali Dal president and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will have to do better than what the government has done so far in moving against the Dera Sacha Sauda.The huge success of the march has also cast a shadow now on the June 27 meeting of the Sikh clergy where the so-called new apology of the Dera Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim, so far in a sealed envelope, is to be considered. It is a different matter that the apology made it to the media hours after Sarna handed it over to SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar.Before the start of the march, Sant Samaj leaders and Sikh hardliners, including former Akal Takht Jethedar Jasbir Singh Rode, Baba Ranjit Singh Dhandrian Wale, Daljit Singh Bittu, Gurdeep Singh Brar, SAD (A) activists Barinder Singh Mann and Gursewak Singh Jawahar Ke, delivered fiery speeches against the Sirsa-based sect. They said the KAC campaign against the Dera and to win all Sikhs back to the main fold would continue regardless of the Sikh clergy's decision to be announced on June 27 regarding the "fresh apology" tendered by the Dera. Akal Takht jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti is cutting short his visit abroad to preside over the June 27 meeting but in the light of the expression of Sikh sentiments through the Sunday’s march, accepting the apology has become a very difficult prospect. At Takht Damdama Sahib, Jathedar Nandgarh came out to receive the march and honour the Panj Piaras with "siropas", but was jeered at by many in the sangat. The police had a tough time saving him from the wrath of angry youth. Among the key leaders leading the march were Bhai Daljit Singh of Akali Dal (Amritsar), Kanwarpal Singh of Dal Khalsa, former Akal Takht jathedar Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode, Mohkam Singh of Damdami Taksal, former ambassador Harinder Singh Norway, Paramjit Singh Gazi, SGPC member Karnail Singh Panjoli etc. The Akali Dal and the SGPC remained away from the march, and by all available accounts, the officialdom is worried about the success of the march. Some amount of expression of rage was also witnessed in the sloganeering during the march though the leaders, including Bhai Daljit Singh of Akali Dal (Amritsar) and Bhai Kanwarpal Singh of Dal Khalsa ensured total control over the cadres.The police had put in certain obstacles at Salabatpura where the Dera Sacha Sauda’s cult largest premises is located but the marchers flung aside the obstacles and continued with their march in a peaceful fashion. The government had spilled hundreds of jawans of Punjab Police and paramilitary forces like the CRPF and the Rapid Action Force besides the Army.There were many a nervous moments for the administration which had made massive security arrangements. Police had wanted the Khalsa March to be diverted from village Jalal towards Bhai Roopa village but its plans remained just that. Enraged youth broke down the barriers at Dayalpura village and took to the Dullewal village road which goes perilously close to the Salabatpura dera. At one stage, the police became dumbstruck and the senior officers seemed utterly confounded. Bathinda SSP Naunihal Singh himself led the naka on the Rampura-Salabatpura road. Ignoring the route charted out by the administration via Jalal Nathana, the protesters removed barricades of earth-filled tractor-trailers near Nawan Dialpura village to pass through Dullewala (a stone's throw from the Salabatpura dera), Bhai Rupa, Rampura Phul, Mandi Kalan, Ram Nagar and Maur Mandi to reach Talwandi Sabo. Another challenge for the security personnel was near the Dera's "nam charcha ghar" in Ramnagar village. It was at this stage that the leadership role played by Bhai Daljit Singh, Kanwarpal Singh and Jasbir Singh Rode ensured that the cadre remained under control.Sangat came out in huge numbers from not only Bathinda but also Moga, Barnala, Mansa and Faridkot apart from other places. Slogans in favour of Khalistan, militancy and late Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale were also raised by a few groups.Protesters also raised slogans against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and Takht Damdama Sahib Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh. They accused them of attempting to sabotage the "Khalsa march". Patiala Range IG M K Tiwari, Faridkot Range DIG Dr Jatinder Jain, Deputy Commissioner Rahul Bhandari, SSP Naunihal Singh, and officers of the paramilitary forces remained present and invariably on tenterhooks.The marching sangat braved the heat, walking, driving, sitting on tractor-trolleys, cars, jeeps and riding mobikes and scooters, all behind the palanquin carrying Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji at the head of the march. The Khalsa March started at 11.30 am and concluded at Damdama Sahib at 7 pm.Nearly 800 to 1,000 vehicles comprised the march which was several kilometres long. Chabeels of sweetened water punctuated the entire route of the march from Gurdwara Dina Kangar in Moga to Takht Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo. The tussle over the route had earlier continued till Saturday late night between the panthic leaders and the administration. Panthic leaders gave clear indications that the show of strength which was witnessed during the march will be repeated on June 27th at the Akal Takht. Indications were also clear that if the 'sealed envelope' apology turns out to be the same as published in the newspapers, it won't be accepted. Leaflets were distributed which talked of making the preaching of Shabad Guru as the main thrust area. These also talked of winning back the misguided Sikhs who have dithered towards the Dera Sacha Sauda and other deras. It also talked of enlarging the struggle's scope by saying not only the Dera Sauda but also rest of the guru-doms and dera-vaadis will be targeted.
Punjab govt gives sanction to arrest dera Sacha Sauda chief
CHANDIGARH: Punjab government on Wednesday gave permission to Punjab police to arrest dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh against whome a Bathinda court had on June 20 issued arrest warrants.
Punjab police had sought prior permission of state government to arrest dera chief whose headquarter is located in Sirsa in Haryana. Bathinda police has booked dera head in a blasphemy case. He has been accused of hurting the religious sentiments of Sikh community.
The Bathinda court had asked the police to execute the arrest warrants before July 1 with prior permission of state government.
The permission to arrest dera chief has came hours after the Akal Takht rejected second apology tendered by dera Sacha Sauda. The Sikh high priests have said that dera chief was not sincere to apologise for his sin.
The Akal Takht has already directed the dera Sacha Sauda to close down all its centers in Punjab and also gave a call to Sikhs to boycott the dera chief and his followers. The Akal Takht had earlier rejected first apology of dera which was addressed to Guru Gobind Singh.
Akal Takht rejects dera Sacha Sauda apology for second time
AMRITSAR: The Sikh high priests on Wednesday rejected the second "apology" submitted by dera Sacha Sauda and announced to hold a Sikh conclave in Ratia town in Haryana to press for arrest of the dera head Baba Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh.
The Sikh clergy which held its meeting at Akal Takht in Amritsar for more than six hours expressed shock over arrogant behaviour of dera head and said that dera authorities have issued a "press note" instead giving proper apology. The Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti in a written statement said that dera head had not expressed any remorse for the sin he had committed and neither gave an assurance not to repeat the same in future.
Paramjit Singh Sarna president of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee has claimed to have mediated to bring the fresh apology from dera. He also faced wrath of Khalsa Action Committee for allegedly hobnobbing with dera Sacha Sauda. The action committee has summoned a meeting on June 29 to consider action against Sarna.
The Sikh clergy had on May 29 last rejected an earlier apology of dera seeking pardon from Guru Gobind Singh. The fresh "apology letter' issued by dera Sacha Sauda has been amended to seek an apology from Guru Gobind Singh and the Sikh community. The letter didn't carry the signatures of dera chief.The large number of hardliner Sikhs were present outside the Akal Takht who demanded nothing less than arrest of dera head who has been accused of blasphemy. Vedanti blamed Haryana government for not taking any action against dera head and instead giving him z plus security. He said that Sikhs would hold a conclave at Ratia on July 11 to pressurise Haryana government to take action against dera chief.He called upon the Sikhs to continue to bouycott the dera chief and his followers. He said that to evolve a broad consensus on the issue, the views of Sikhs living in Indian and abroad would be taken. The confrontation between dera Sacha Sauda and Sikh community had started on May 13 last when dera head Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh appeared in newspaper advertisements attired in dress alike of Guru Gobind Singh. The dera had organised a congregation on May 14 at dera Salabatpur in Bathinda district to 'baptise' dera followers on the pattern of Guru Gobind Singh had done on April 13,11699 to lay foundation of Khalsa panth. This led to clash between Sikhs and dera followers.A Bathinda court on June 20 last had issued arrest warrants of Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh in a case registered against him for hurting the religious sentiments of Sikhs. The arrest warrants are valid till July 1. As per the condition of the court, the Punjab police has sought state government's permission to arrest dera head. It is expected that state government would grant the permission and onus of arresting dera head would be shifted on Congress Government in Haryana.
No easy way to arrest Dera Sacha Sauda chief
Chandigarh, The latest move by Akali Dal-led Punjab government Wednesday night, allowing the police to arrest the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh, can only worsen the relationship between Sikh hardliners and Dera followers.
The Dera chief - who lives in a sprawling mini-city on the outskirts of Sirsa town in neighbouring Haryana, 300 km from here - is unlikely to give in easily when the policemen try to arrest him.
A Bathinda court issued the arrest warrant June 20. A month before that, the police had registered a case, accusing the Dera chief of hurting religious sentiments of Sikhs.
The warrant is valid till July 1. The sect chief plans to visit Uttar Pradesh and other states during the next three days.
The Punjab police will have to depend on the willingness of their colleagues in Haryana to carry out the arrest.
Before the Punjab government gave the sanction for the arrest, Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had ducked the question of helping the Punjab police. He had described the question as 'hypothetical'. Now it has become very real, and will probably trouble Hooda quite a bit.
Thousands of sect members who have gathered in Sirsa are likely to physically oppose the arrest of Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh. The sect has over two million followers in Punjab and Haryana. If they turn violent, the two states may see a repeat of the May incidents, when there was widespread violence and arson in the wake of the controversy.
While the Sikh community has maintained its tough stand on the controversy that erupted after the Dera head portrayed himself like the tenth Sikh guru Gobind Singh, Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh himself has perhaps not done enough to resolve the controversy.
He has apologised to the Sikh clergy twice, but both apologies have been interpreted as reluctant. They clearly fell short of the conditions laid down by the Sikh religious leaders.
The ruling Akali Dal is obviously annoyed with the Dera chief, who had sided openly with the Congress in the last assembly election. But the Punjab government cannot wish him away. He has a large following in the state, especially among the poor.
The average resident of Punjab and Haryana can only wait and watch in trepidation as the possibility of violence becomes more real all the time.
Sikh Leader Falsely Charged With Sedition
On June 2nd, 2007, Daljit Singh Bittu, senior vice- president of the Sikh political party Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), was charged with sedition by police from Fategharh Sahib District, in the state of Punjab, India.Mr. Bittu has been falsely charged.The events leading to the charge against Mr. Bittu are as follows:On May 31st, Mr. Bittu participated in a march protesting government refusal to curb the criminal activities and religious offenses of the Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) organization. The lawful march lasted just one kilometer as participants marched from one gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) to another. Although some passionate participants shouted the slogan "Khalistan Zindabad" in reference to the desired independent Sikh nation, the entire march was peaceful.Two days later, Mr. Bittu was charged with sedition for taking part in the march. He committed no crime. He did not participate in violence, as the entire march was peaceful. He also did not participate in the shouting of pro-Khalistan slogans.The crime of sedition is clearly defined under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This code forbids exciting or attempting to excite disaffection towards the Indian government, but it also says that "comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means...do not constitute an offense." In short, it is not seditious to peacefully make comments strongly disapproving of government policies. This is exactly what Mr. Bittu, who has publicly and peacefully criticized government inaction regarding DSS, has done.Even if Mr. Bittu had shouted slogans alongside the other participants, which by all reports he did not, he still would have committed no crime. The Indian Supreme Court ruled in Balwant Singh vs. State of Punjab [AIR (1995) SC 1785] that the mere public use of the slogan "Khalistan Zindabad" is not illegal, saying: "It appears to us that the raising some slogans only a couple of times by the two lonesome appellants, which neither evoked any response nor any reaction from any one in the public can neither attract the provisions of Section 124A or of Section 153A IPC."Besides sedition, Mr. Bittu could only be charged with speaking his mind and participating in a public assembly. Yet these are basic, fundamental rights of the people under Article 19, Clauses (1)(a) and (1)(b) of the Indian Constitution, which guarantee the right "to freedom of speech and expression" and "to assemble peaceably and without arms."The Indian government has a history of harassing Mr. Bittu for peacefully and publicly addressing grievances. In 2006, he protested the seizure of 376 acres of farmland by the government of Punjab and spoke to a group of affected farmers. He was then arrested and charged with sedition, and ultimately released on bail. U.S. congressman Edolphus Towns said of that case: "Mr. Bittu spoke out against the acquisition of the land of poor farmers by Punjab on behalf of private business firms. We have had cases in this country where the government has taken land by eminent domain for private usage, Mr. Speaker, and no one ever gets arrested for speaking out against it." Mr. Bittu has been arrested several other times for protesting government policies and served many years in prison for a variety of false charges, many of which have been dropped for lack of evidence.While Mr. Bittu’s arrest has been stayed until June 25, he has been directed to participate in all investigations and remains charged with sedition.In conclusion, Mr. Bittu has not done anything that can be legitimately considered a crime under U.S., international, or Indian law. In what is just one more incident of Indian government suppression of basic human rights, Mr. Bittu is being harassed solely for his dedication to promoting liberty through peaceful means.We urge the U.S. government to pressure India to drop charges against Mr. Bittu in the interest of the international promotion of democracy and basic human rights, including the rights to freedom of speech and self-determination.
Please contact the following agencies to urge that charges against Mr. Bittu be dropped:Indian Embassy2107 Massachusetts Avenue, NWWashington, DC 20008Phone: (202) 939-7000Fax: (202) 265-4351U.S. EmbassyShantipath, ChanakyapuriNew Delhi - 110021Phone: 011-2419-8000Fax: +91-11-2419-0017